135compact.com       21mm camera       Ajax F21

The Ajax F21 is a unique Russian spy camera. The original name was Ajax 12, there were predecessors named Ajax 8 to Ajax 11 from 1945 to 1951. The KMZ F-21 Ajax (КМЗ F-21 Аякс) was produced by the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Works (Красногорский механический завод) not far from Moscow. The F21 name may refer to to the 21mm film format as for the 1985 successor, the F27 (Neozit) which had a 27mm film format. There was a F21 version with a CdS meter by the end of the 70s, called "Nailon". The F21 was designed and manufactured specifically for the KGB, so there is no official information available. Longtime it was forbidden to own this camera in private, in 2013 the Ukrainian camera collector Alexandr Komarov was arrested for owning two of these and faced up to seven years in prison.

They are ultra-small, ultra silent spring-wound film cameras, largely inspired by the German RoBoT cameras, but much smaller. This was achieved by cutting down the film width to 21mm (the camera was usually delivered with a cutter to cut the 21mm out of 35mm film). So it was possible to have a sharp half frame size, 24x18mm, in a very small camera.

The camera's main features are:

28mm F2.8 lens, hyperfocal setting, F2.8 - F16
Fast and quiet automatic shutter cocking and film wind via spring motor
Shutter: B, 1/10, 1/30 and 1/100
Size:  77 x 55 x 40 mm, Weight : 180 g

Some pictures of my camera:

Front. The camera has no finder.

Back view.

Seen from above. Shutter button with big thread around the base for remote accessories, shutter speed selector set to 1/100s, the little kob has to be lifted to go to "B", spring wind, counter unlock buttonl and exposure number indication.

Shutter set to 1/10s.

Shutter set to B.

Counter window, indicator at 10. The knob has to be pressed and turned to reset aftrer film loading. Counts backwords on mine.

Seen from below. To open the back, the rings have to be lifted and turned against the direction of the arrows. This opens the back and closes the spools.

Focussed on te aperture scale. The thread around the lens accepts concealing devices such as large coat buttons.

Aperture set to F2.8. You have to move the ring with the engraved little dot to adjust.

Aperture set to 16.

Right side. The "hook" on the right side of the body...

...and on te left were made to click the camera into a concealing container of any kind such as handbags, boxes or clothing.

Camera back open open, film compartment and film cassette.

Film pressure plate. The 2 holes in each closing mechanism move the little pins sticking out of the spools and open the casettes only when the back is closed to prevent light leaks.

The casettes still closed.

Back side.

The spools in secured position.

If you press the little pins on the bridge between the cassettes, they release a spring so that you can turn the spool housings.

Spool housings retracted.

Spools retracted from housings.

Size comparison, it's really small.
Seen from above.

This is a nice little camera. The only snag is the film format. I will have a film slicer soon that slices 1 21mm and 2 16mm rolls from 120 film.